Truman Public School holding referendum by mail

TRUMAN — A vote will take place to renew a Truman Public School operating levy referendum. It will take place by mail ballot.

Ballots will be mailed to each house with a stamped and addressed return label. People may begin receiving the ballots as early as next week.

Ballots must be mailed back to the school by Nov. 5. Ballots also may be hand-delivered to the school.

The ballots will be totaled by three election judges who will be hired by the school district.

Referendums for public schools, when passed, are in place for 10 years.

Truman currently has three referendums in place. They expire in 2021, 2026 and 2028. The district is going out for the referendum set to expire in 2021 two years early because of its financial situation.

The referendum is for $852 per student. Of that amount, voters need to renew $128. The Legislature allows the district the remaining $724 in local optional revenue. This new law took place in the 2019 legislative session.

Truman Superintendent Lisa Shellum said that with the referendum, property taxes will go up slightly.

On a house in Truman with a market value of $75,000, property taxes would increase by $34 if the referendum passes. On a house with a market value of $150,000, property taxes would increase by $68.

Two questions will be on the ballot. The first will ask if the expiring referendum should be renewed. The second asks for the approval of additional referendum revenue.

By voting yes on the first ballot, an extra $128 will be generated per pupil. By voting yes to the second question, an additional $204 per pupil will be generated. Shellum pointed out that the first question has to pass in order for the second to pass.

“We can add an additional $204 to the ballot on top of the $128. This will generate approximately $49,000 worth of revenue for the district for 10 years,” she explained.

Shellum said it might not seem like a lot of money, but she pointed out that Truman only receives $3.6 million in funding each year. Of the $3.6 million, $800,000 comes from referendum dollars.

“If it doesn’t pass for some reason, we will go back out in the fall of 2020. If it doesn’t pass, the district may have to look at alternate plans because we’re so small,” Shellum said.

She spoke more about the financial reasons why the school board is going out for the levy two years early.

Shellum came to Truman at the end of the 2017-18 school year. At that time, Truman was $735,000 in the red. Over the span of many years, Truman’s finances have been going up and down.

“Our goal now is to make sure that the levy stays even and to get out of this and stay out of it,” Shellum said.

She said the board has had to make many changes recently. One noticeable change was the decision to pull out of Southern Plains Educational Cooperative, which offers special education services. Truman is now the only school district its size in the state to have its own special education program. There are 40 special education students at Truman and the school now has eight full-time special education teachers.